Reviewed by Robert Ehrman, MD
Weather disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes, can be devastating. Other physical disasters, such as fires or power outages, can cause disruptions in your life, as well. You may not have access to diabetes supplies, food and medicines or basic necessities.
Being prepared to manage your diabetes during a disaster can give you an added sense of security. Also, it makes it easier to deal with other disruptions that you can’t control once a disaster takes place.
MAKE A PLAN
A first step is to put together a plan for a disaster. Along with general emergency supplies, you’ll want to keep emergency diabetes supplies in stock. General supplies include things like working flashlights, back-up batteries, a first-aid kit, hand sanitizing gel and bottled water.
The diabetes supplies you’ll want to keep on hand should include extra medicines, insulin, syringes, blood glucose meter and strips, cooler bags (to keep insulin cool), alcohol swabs, glucose tablets or gel, and lancets. If it is hard for you to keep a supply in stock, you may just want to have extras during certain times of the year—hurricane or tornado season, for example. If you can’t keep extra medicine on hand, keep extra copies of your prescriptions and important documents like your insurance card. Talk with your health care provider about having extra copies of your prescriptions. They will need to write the prescriptions for you. This is important, because you never know when you might need them.
You’ll also want to think about food to keep in stock. You’ll need food that doesn’t have to be cooked, such as canned fruit, vegetables, tuna and meats, as well as juice or other drinks that won’t spoil. And don’t forget a non-electric can opener! If you live in a part of the country where snowstorms are common, keep snacks in the car, such as juice boxes or cans, nuts, granola bars and the like. A rush-hour snowstorm can delay you for hours. You may even want to keep extras at work or other places you visit often. You don’t want to get stranded or feel like you have to risk going out in the storm because of your diabetes.
Your power can go out for many reasons. If the power goes off and is likely to stay off for more than a few hours, you need to protect your food and insulin from spoiling. Check storage guidelines ahead of time for your specific insulin, because keeping it cool during the summer months without air conditioning takes some planning. If the weather is very warm, keep your insulin in water cooled with ice. Because frozen insulin is useless, do not store your insulin in ice or on dry ice.
When cities or flooded areas are evacuated, there is usually enough notice to gather up what you need. Because you may feel stressed at a time like this, keeping a list of diabetes supplies you need to take is a big help. Think about what you would want to have if you had to be away from home for a period of time. The list can include medicines, monitoring supplies and phone numbers for your health care provider, your local Walgreens pharmacy, and other emergency contacts.
Wearing a medical ID alert bracelet or having an ID card is particularly important because you may get separated from your family or may need emergency help. During evacuations, traffic can move slowly and a trip can take hours longer than usual. Keep snacks and a way to treat low blood glucose with you or in the car.
Along with your own planning, consider becoming involved with community disaster planning groups or organizations. You can help them create a plan that includes people with diabetes. Who knows, you may even save your own life someday!